THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
What if... / Farewell
to the Chronic Illness
to the Chronic Illness
WEEK V / DAY VII
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Imagine a rift in a relationship with someone you care about, someone who should know you and respect you and appreciate who you are. What happens when you’re treated unfairly? If things go sideways between my wife and me, I can hardly get through the day. We need to acknowledge the rift to survive and to resolve the hurt in order to thrive. As hard as it can be to address “it,” the “it” is more painful, toxic, and devastating to ignore.
Now imagine that wound unresolved, and take that daily brick of pain and stack it up over months, years, and then generations. Keep stacking until it seems normal, systemic, “just the way it is.” That’s where we are as a nation when it comes to race and social justice. We’ve made good strides; however, there are innumerable structures piled up all around us with generations of unacknowledged pain.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught about the reciprocal damages of racism, saying, “Segregation scars the soul of both the segregator and the segregated. The segregator looks upon the segregated as a thing to be used, not a person to be respected” (Stride Toward Freedom by King, 1958:205). The illness of racism simultaneously reinforces a false sense of inferiority for the one and a false sense of superiority for the other, dehumanizing both.
So maybe we’re not divided like our parents or grandparents felt in the 1950s, but just as they inherited dysfunctional systems and assumptions from previous generations, so have we. It’s easier to see in hindsight, but the legacies of segregation linger around us and in us, whether visible to us or not. Just as an untended wound becomes infected and won’t heal on its own (and might actually kill us), neither will the social wounds we’ve inherited repair without honest, humble, and assertive attention. There’s good medicine for these deformities, but the patient can’t get to it unless he first understands that he needs help.
What if we, White brothers and sisters, were able to better see and understand the subtle yet potent ailments we’ve contracted and the characteristic blind spots that we’ve lived with for so long? What if we were free from that chronic ache of entitlement that’s lived among us longer than we can remember – so long that we’re simply numb to it? Our path to freedom lies in humility, repentance, and forgiveness – a full supply of medication forever at our disposal. But it’s been boxed up in the cabinet, for as long as I can remember. It’s time to open the box.
Do we care about the things that God cares about? What lens do we use when we read the latest headlines or newsfeed? When was the last time we gave up our right to be right and used our time, energy, and creativity to try to truly understand the other?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Clouds of anxiety form in the stagnant air of fear rising from the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of political instability, fear of the other, fear that I or my children or grandchildren might not be okay. But what if we really believed that we were so well-loved and cared for that we were able to give to others from the “more than enough” of this provision?
For the follower of Jesus, we are no longer slaves of fear because perfect love drives out fear. For all God’s children, there is no lukewarm maintenance of the status quo, but rather full devotion to the things of God – loving Him who loves the vulnerable and loving our neighbors, who are often different than ourselves. Is this not what Jesus is talking about in John 10:10 when He describes the fullness of the way things were made to be? “I have come that [you] would have life and have it to the full.”
That motivation to live for something bigger than ourselves is driving at nothing short of remaking the entire world – unmaking violence, establishing love and respect, and living into the promise of “making all things new.”
The wounds of the false-inferior and the false-superior will be made whole. Together, we will no longer miss out because we’ve constructed chaotic divisions and workarounds between “us” and “them.” Together, there is no distinction of nationality, social status, gender or race, but brothers and sisters, parents and children. All of us together, we are well-loved, sharing a common future of goodness, respect, and opportunity.
Written by Ted Haddock